The first reaction of many of those who have seen the headline will have been: “How can Movistar go down? Where? Isn’t cycling a closed league?” Since 2018, no. In 2018, a new system was established by which the points of the following three years are added -four, in this case, due to Covid- and the two worst are relegated to the Pro Tour category. .. for a period of another three years until things are rearranged.
Why three years? It is the time that the UCI considers the minimum to form and develop a project. They are right. Teams go through a lot of changes each season, riders coming and going, sponsors joining the cause or disappearing… if everyone had this pressure every year to see who got a place and who didn’t, they would go crazy . If the cycling seen in the past Giro already seemed too conservative, with fear of losing sixth and seventh places and the points they distribute, one would have to imagine these same teams with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads every year .
The fact is that at the end of the season, there will be 16 current World Tour teams that will renew their license, to which Alpecin and Arkea will be added as the best Pro Tour teams by far . They will have access to all the elite events on the calendar and, consequently, the best riders in the world will only consider their offers – although we insist on the exception of Alpecin and Arkea, especially the first ones – and the sponsors will fight for their brands to appear on the jerseys of these teams.
Those eighteen teams are chosen based on the number of points their top ten riders accumulate each season. With half of 2022 to go, the UCI list is headed by Quick Step, Jumbo, Ineos, UAE and Bahrain -no surprise there- and is closed by Lotto Soudal, Israel, Education First, Bike Exchange, Cofidis… and Movistar. Two of these six teams will lose their license and enter the stormy world of invitations and the three years in hell. Although Lotto and Israel are the ones that have it the worst, the rest cannot be confused for a second.
That is where Enric Mas comes in. The “boring” Enric Mas who is criticized so much by the fans and the press. No, Enric Mas doesn’t win stages, he doesn’t win small laps and he certainly doesn’t win the big ones. He barely attacks, he makes regularity his strong point and sometimes he drives us crazy. But for Movistar it is, right now, what can separate them from relegation. But, with his fifth places, his podiums, his top tens in different stages, he adds a lot of points. Without going any further, in 2021, when more sticks fell to him, he contributed 1,533 of the 6,656 of his team, almost one in four, only behind the eternal Alejandro Valverde, who directly slipped into the eleven best in the world . It is no coincidence that they invited him to continue one more year, the decisive one.
And Valverde is fulfilling in 2022 to spare, too. He has already accumulated more than 1,000 points and we are only in June. To get an idea of how erratic the system is, the stage he won in Andratx at the beginning of the season gave him almost the same points (125) as seventh place in Liège among the elite of the elite (150). The thing is that now Valverde is going to take a break that looks like it’s going to be long. He has collapsed in the spring classics and in the Giro (120 for being eleventh). It’s up to Enric Mas to take over and score points… because of the rest of Movistar, honestly, we don’t know anything (Aranburu, 119th in the ranking, is next).
Mas defends many points between now and the end of the season: 1080 between the general classifications of the Vuelta and the Tour, plus another 250 between positions in stages and classifications of minor laps . When Movistar or Mas are criticized for fighting to be fifth, they ignore that those points for fifth place may or may not mean the survival of the team. Movistar has an important cushion with respect to Lotto… but in the rest of the season, beyond Mas, and perhaps something from Valverde in the Vuelta or in Lombardy, what does he have left? Any. You have to scratch as it is.
And, of course, we would all like to see Mas fight in stages, drop from the general classification when he has no options and test him from afar another day in numerous breakaways … but it is not possible. A sixth place finish, as crappy as it sounds, could be the difference between heaven and hell for his team. How can they not be conservative? Next year, without Valverde, this is a drama, but they will have another three seasons to reconfigure objectives and workloads. Right now, it is clear what there is: four months of Valverde and four of Mas. The Murcian has already fulfilled, at 42 years old. It remains to be seen what the Mallorcan will do.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.